Competition at running back will make Pats stronger as Sony Michel nears return


Depth and internal competition are key components of any successful NFL team, and the New England Patriots could soon receive a boost in both areas if Sony Michel is activated off injured reserve.

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said Tuesday that Michel "hopefully" will return to the team this week. The veteran running back has missed New England's last six games with a quad injury. 

The last time we saw Michel was Week 3 versus the Las Vegas Raiders, when he was one of the Patriots' best players with 117 rushing yards and 23 receiving yards in a 36-20 victory.

Curran: Youth movement finally paying dividends for Patriots

Even though Michel played one of the best games of his career before being sidelined due to injury, he might find it difficult to reclaim his role as the team's starting running back.

Damien Harris has thrived in Michel's absence. The second-year running back has played in the Patriots' last six games, totaling 471 rushing yards (5.5 per carry) and one touchdown. Harris tallied a career-high 121 rushing yards (5.5 per carry) in New England's 23-17 win over the Baltimore Ravens last week.

The Patriots have tremendous depth at running back, so with Michel likely to return in the near future, the internal competition at the position will soon intensify. 

Edelman has great reaction to Jakobi Meyers' TD pass vs. Ravens

This development should only benefit the Patriots as they try to maximize their production in the run game. Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels made this point when he spoke to reporters during a video press conference Tuesday.


“The best thing for our team is competition. I think we have a competitive group of backs," McDaniels said. "We have a competitive group in a lot of areas. I think that only makes the players better. They work hard in practice. They compete to try to find roles during the course of the week for the game, and that’s always been a really important thing for our program and our offense is to compete in practice.

"It makes you better. It makes our team better, and whatever the roles are in the game, ultimately, we’ll try to figure that out as we go.”

The Patriots return to game action Sunday afternoon against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium. The Texans are giving up 167.4 rushing yards per game -- the most in the league through 10 weeks. It's a good opportunity to ease Michel back into the offense coming off an injury.